Monday, May 27, 2013

Learning How to Lean

I can’t remember if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I’m stoic.  I inherited my wonderful Granny’s epic stoicism, the product of which related in her living with chronic pain for roughly sixteen decades.  (ok, slight exaggeration.  But I kid you not – when she was given pain meds in her early 90’s for shingles she was quoted as saying “Wow, that’s the first time I’ve been pain-free since the toboggan accident…”  WHICH HAPPENED WHEN SHE WAS SOMETHING LIKE 15 YEARS OLD!!!)  I’m like this too – when I hurt myself I generally ice or elevate the injured body bit for about a day, and then I move straight to the “work it hard until it just gives up hurting because it knows that it cannot defeat me.  Cannot defeat me!” form of therapy.   Pain is a form of weakness; fatigue a sign of defeat.  And there’s always way too much to do and way too many people counting on me for something to allow such things as pain and fatigue to get in my way.  I can’t afford it.  I can’t allow it. 

I’m just a little bit stoic.

Part of the reason for my stoicism, as it’s evolved over years, is that I’ve always been a solo player.  I’ve been the living embodiment of the old phrase “if you want something done you’d better do it yourself.”, not because I think I do it better than everybody else…

…ok, yeah, that’s crap.  I do think I do it better than everybody else.  But that’s not the ONLY reason I live that phrase.  The first and most impactful reason is simple: I had nobody else to do it.  I had to bring home the bacon AND fry it up in the pan.  If I knew how to fry up bacon in a pan.  Or in any other piece of cookware.  (and it’s sad, because I really like bacon.  Still, my not really knowing how to make has turned it into magic food, like French fries and frozen yogurt!  But I digress)  Also I had to do all the other things that needed doing:  pet care, home care, car care and all other variety of cares.  On a given weekday I’d work 8+ hours, come home to work out, go for groceries, make dinner, go do my social plans with friends and family, come home to feed kitties and clean-up some part of the house and then find my way to the bed.  So if I hurt myself or get sick and actually sat down or even (shock!  Horror!) lied down to succumb then who would do the work or feed the kitties or make the food?  Nobody, that’s who.  And that guy?  He sucks at all of those things.  Ever et his food?  Dreadful.  No flavor, no texture and absolutely no nutritional value. 

So then what – these things just don’t happen?  Well that’s fine, I guess, for working out or being social – when you’re all sick and mucusy nobody REALLY wants to hang out with you so much anyway.  But you’re also talking no eating and no cleaning up the kitchen, which leads to a hungry, cranky Femtastic surrounded by grungy bowls and stinky pots and eating utensils stuck to other eating utensils.  Uck.  And nobody can “relax” on their couch with two grumpy, hungry cats standing on your chest, yeowling about “where is our food?” and “how about a bit of feeding, yes?” and “don’t you even try to close your eyes until we’re full of foods, you!!”

So there you go – want or need it done?  Gotta do it yourself.  This was my mantra for about 15 years.  And then along came The Cowboy.  A guy my age, but with many more years of being with partners under his belt, he knows how to be someone you can depend upon.  He’s a doer and a helper and a taker-carer-of-er.  He’s someone upon which I can actually lean.

If I allow myself to do it.

Here, in a truly happy, comfortable, wonderful relationship, I find my stoicism colliding headfirst with his generosity, kindness and love.  I know that he would be happy if I could learn to let him support me – he’d love it, in the same way that I love to support those that I love, including him.  But years of my needing to stand on two feet and handle everything, everything, by myself has created this wall.  Or scaffolding.  Perhaps its jack stands and a ladder?  Some kind of construction-type-thing that is preventing me from doing what I know I can, should, and he would like:  lean.  

At first it was so novel when he would do so much for me that I indulged.  It was like someone giving me permission to have pudding three meals a day for a week.  Who says no to constant pudding?  Crazy people, that’s who!  I indulged in his constant-pudding-goodness and let him take care of me in small ways that mean little to most and meant so much to me.  Cleaning up my terrible little kitchen.  He did my laundry.  Mowed my lawn!  Mowed my frickin’ lawn!  Loved on my kitties and got my car washed and just so many lovely things that I over-puddinged and started to be sure I was literally getting spoiled.  I’ve known spoiled people in my life, who let others do for them and never give back and never think to wonder if they truly deserve the gifts they receive and never, EVER think to say “oh no, I couldn’t.”   I don’t want to become one of them, so the construction-barriers reappeared.

They didn’t shoot back up, nor were they as high and blocky as before, but I found I had to make a concerted effort to allow him to support and do for me.  I also thought about how seldom it seemed like I did for him.  Not for lack of trying, but he was so self-sufficient, strong, grown-up that from my paranoid, spoiled perspective I felt like it was always him doing for me.  So walls or scaffolding it was.

But in the last few months a couple of things have happened.  First, he finally has truly needed me.  He’s had health issues crop up a couple of times that I’m sure he could have handled on his own, but I was around and he let me take care of him.  I loved that feeling, taking care of someone I adore so much, and I thought of how seldom I let him have it.  And I recognized that by being my stoic, mule-headed self I was being selfish too. 

He also had some rough days and he let me see that they were rough.  He let me see how he was truly feeling rather than pulling out the old “I’m fine” card – one which I’m all too familiar with.  That was such an honor and a privilege and once again I saw that what I’d thought was an imbalance that only prospered me was actually an imbalance that robbed from him. 

And then, as if the universe knew I was right on the rim of the “I could trust and depend on this man” hole, I found myself really needing someone. 

I won’t bore you with the details – they involve running on the beach, gravity plus momentum and the jaunty ways of a one-eyed basset – but I took a spill.  Nothing too severe; no broken bones or trips to the hospital.  But my big, dumb knee swelled up to the size of my big, dumb head and I really needed help to get around for a day or so.  When the shock and size of the problem hit me, pushing through one hell of an adrenaline cloud, the only person I thought of that I wanted to lean on was my Cowboy.  He protected me not only from my injury, but even from my stoicism, strapping me to the couch to keep me from hobbling to the fridge for a soda or gummy bears.  I could ask him for help and also for input because I honestly had no idea how to handle the head-sized knee of badness and he did. 

So I leaned.  Hell, at one point I even wondered if I’d be leaning so hard he’d be carrying me fullstop.  (But thank god that didn’t happen.  There are no words for how much I hate being carried.  Except for these words:  I COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY HATE TO BE CARRIED, DON’T DO IT EVER, I WILL POKE YOU IN ALL YOUR SOFT, SENSITIVE PLACES, DON’T THINK THAT I WON’T!!!!!!)  From the leaning a funny thing happened:  I pushed through the version of leaning where you force yourself to do it and into the version where you really don’t have an alternative, and you can instead truly be grateful and thankful that you can lean; that you have someone on which to lean.  Leaning where you just keep realizing how lucky you are in your leaning. 

Stoicism has it’s place.  But when the universe kicks your legs out from under you and you’re face-first in the dirt snorting sod it’s an incredible thing to look up and see a strong, safe hand reaching down to pull you up and limp you to a comfy place to sit; bring you a cookie and maybe even (if you’re truly lucky) rub your feet.

Me?  I’m truly lucky.